New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in hot water over the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge that caused a massive traffic tie-up — and that Democrats say was carried out only as a form of political revenge.
The brewing scandal escalated Wednesday as Democrats demanded the resignation of Christie's top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The demand followed the disclosure that an aide tried to keep the closures a secret from people in the Fort Lee area.
The closures were allegedly payback for the refusal of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, to endorse Christie's reelection, the Newark Star Ledger reports.
The unannounced lane shutdowns caused grueling four-hour backups near the bridge in September.
David Wildstein, the official who ordered them, announced last week that he will retire at the end of the month.
But Democrats now want the head of Wildstein's boss, Bill Baroni, a top Port Authority executive on the New Jersey side.
"Bill Baroni has outlived his usefulness as the Port Authority's executive director," said John Wisniewski, chairman of the New Jersey Assembly's transportation committee.
"Mr. Baroni has not been honest with the public and this committee about these lane closures," Wisniewski said.
Adding more political embarrassment to the Christie administration was a statement by Port Authority executive director Pat Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
He said on Monday that he would have axed Wildstein if he had hired him.
But Christie has dug in his heels, last week calling Wildstein "a tireless advocate for New Jersey's interests at the Port Authority . . . We are grateful for his commitment and dedication to the important work of the Port Authority and thank him for his service to the people of New Jersey and the region."
The Christie administration insists the lanes were shut to accommodate an important traffic study.
But The Wall Street Journal
reported the closures were made without police being notified.
Emergency officials were also allegedly not told of the closures in advance.
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